The title ‘ Moku’, like the work itself, has many layers to its meaning. Depending on the Japanese kanji, it can mean silence, to see, to cleanse, to rise, or even simple objects like trees and smoke. These definitions all apply to Yamazaki’s painting style which the artist describes as, “a deeply cleansing ritual that allows me to see and reveal my inner feelings.
Our interview with Yumi Yamazaki dives into her creative process, explores her emotional landscape, and shares the artists who inspire her.
Can you share a little about your background and how you first heard of Thinkspace?
I am a Japanese Artist in Entertainment, Art Director, and Fine Artist based in LA. I have been a creator since I was young, but I formally started pursuing art as a career at Otis College of Art and Design in LA. During my time there, I studied animation and digital art but fell in love with traditional art. My friends and I would often visit local galleries to see the works of our favorite artists, and that’s when I first visited Thinkspace Gallery. I remember seeing works from Amy Sol, Audrey Kawasaki, Stella Im Hultberg, Marco Mazzoni (just to name a few) and dreaming if my works would one day find their way onto the gallery walls. It’s such an incredible honor to find myself at that moment now.
You’ve shared that your work is inspired by emotions that are difficult for you to express. Do you find that after you complete a body of work, you’re able to express those emotions in your life with more ease?
I have never been very good at expressing my feelings in any form, so my works are like the remnants of my struggle to untangle my emotions. I think I feel the most relief when I first manage to sketch out an idea successfully. After that moment, I make every decision based on how I can better communicate that feeling.
What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?
I work full-time as an Art Director during the day, so I only get to work on my personal pieces at night or on the weekends. Even though the workload can sometimes become overwhelming, I have a lot of fun finding this balance between commercial and personal work. I like to think both aspects elevate the other and make my work stronger and more well-rounded.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
I definitely have specific music that helps me get into a creative flow, but sometimes I struggle to find the perfect playlist or album that works. I also need something to sip on while I work, so I usually make myself a cup of tea or coffee.
What is your most favorite and least favorite part of the creative process? Does your approach to your concept art differ from your fine artwork?
My least favorite part of the creative process is prepping the surface I will be working on. I get impatient because I just want to start drawing or painting right away, especially when I have a fresh idea, but I know how important it is for me to create a proper surface to work on, so I stick it out.
My favorite part of the process is the moment I’m able to capture an idea in a sketch. The first moment when I’m able to catch and draw an idea is so exhilarating that I can sometimes feel my heart racing!
My technical approach to fine art and concept art are fairly similar. The only difference is the author of the idea and who the artwork is for. This creates a very different emotional connection to the work, but I find it fun to switch between the two mindsets of working solely for myself and working for a client.
What is your favorite way to spend the day outside your studio?
I love going to the beach on a sunny day, sitting in the sand, or just going out for good food and drinks with friends. I also love to travel and explore new places, see great art, and immerse myself in nature.
Who are some of the artists and creators that have inspired you?
There are too many artists I look up to and am inspired by!
I owe a lot to my teachers, who pushed and inspired me as a student. My amazing mentor and friend, Nathan Ota, introduced me to the gallery scene and encouraged me to do traditional art. Gary Geraths and Bill Eckert are two excellent teachers who taught me how to love art and live like an artist.
If I had to choose, my favorite classical artists are Edgar Degas, Joaquin Sorolla, and Gustav Klimt. My favorite modern-day artists are Andrew Hem, Colleen Barry, Joao Ruas, and James Jean.
It is always incredibly inspiring and humbling to see work from these artists in person.
If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?
I would like to download some excellent cooking skills. It would be super nice to be able to cook delicious meals, and it would probably make me enjoy cooking more!
Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?
Jiro Ono (for the sushi), Joe Hisaishi (for the music), Edgar Degas (for the art & conversation), and a Patissier from Japan (for the dessert), and my best friend (to enjoy it with!)
The menu would be an omakase course from Jiro Ono and a dessert from the Patissier.
The icebreaker question would probably be,
“Out of all the work you have created so far, which is your favorite?”